The Michigan ACE Initiative

The Michigan Association of Health Plans Foundation (MHAP) believes that key interventions to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) will come from the community – the parents, teachers, social workers, community health workers and beyond who frequently work with kids and make an impact on their lives.

The statewide initiative is largely funded by a $451,000 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, which supports childhood health programs. The purpose is to build awareness of ACEs and their impact on health and well-being later in life.

Being able to recognize signs of ACEs before it is too late can change a child’s life. ACEs include abuse and neglect, experience with domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness and stress. These experiences can lead to negative health outcomes in adult life.

“This is truly a core public health issue if ever there was one,” said Richard Murdock, former executive director of the Michigan Association of Health Plans who is overseeing the grant efforts this year.

So far, the Michigan ACE Initiative has trained 24 individuals from northern Michigan to be Master Trainers. The goal for these Master Trainers is to educate the community to better identify signs of ACEs in children and to help create community-based interventions.

Master Trainers for the Grand Traverse Region include:

  • Betsy Hardy, Program Coordinator, Healthy Futures, Munson Healthcare
  • Denise Busley, Co-founder, Grand Traverse Pie Company
  • Mary Gruman, Licensed Professional Counselor, Birchbark Counseling
  • Mary Manner, Great Start Coordinator, Venture North Funding & Development
  • Sue Bolde, Executive Director, Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center

Murdock noted that Michigan doctors who serve impoverished Medicaid patients are now expected to look for signs of toxic stress in younger patients. Effective Feb. 1, they are being instructed to actively screen those under 21 for traumatic risk factors and, if needed, refer them to a mental health professional.

“That part is already funded under Medicaid. So, we don’t have to go to the Legislature and ask for money,” Murdock said.

Underscoring what’s at stake, a report by the Michigan Department of Community Health for 2011-12 found that young people in Michigan are exposed to more childhood trauma than the national average. According to a state fact sheet, 28.5 percent of children up to age 17 in Michigan in 2011-2012 had two or more ACE factors, compared with the U.S. average of 22.6 percent. More than 40 percent of Michigan children in poverty had two or more risk factors.

For more information about the Michigan ACE Initiative in the Grand Traverse Region, please contact the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center at